Herring is the most popular fish and probably the most typical, traditional and oldest street food in the Netherlands. It has had an enormous influence on Dutch history. The fish has been a staple ingredient in the Dutch diet since the Middle Ages. Subsequently, fishing for herring and its trade became important occupations. Interestingly, herring may taste saltier the further you travel east in the Netherlands. This hails back to the time when supplies of herring took longer to travel from the harbors to the customers. Salted and frozen for a longer time, the herring came out tasting differently — and through the years customers have gotten used to their local flavors.
Amsterdam is famous for a raw herring dish served with onions and pickles called Hollandse Nieuwe. The ‘Hollandse Nieuwe’ (Dutch New) is the first herring that is caught in season, usually in May. As soon as the herring has a minimum of 16% fat, it may hit the market as ‘Hollandse Nieuwe’. The best ones are usually found in stalls scattered around the canals. The traditional way of eating herring is by taking the tail of the raw herring, slathering it with onions and eating it whole. But if that doesn’t sound too appealing, it is also served on white bread with some chopped onion and salt cucumber on top. Either way, it’s going to be good.